By Donna Thornton / Times Staff Writer
Posted Dec 27, 2018 at 2:19 PM
Updated Dec 27, 2018 at 7:20 PM
Frios Gourmet Pops founder Andy Harp says he’s sold the company he started in his garage in a multi-million dollar deal.
The buyer, Cliff Kennedy of Mobile, is a franchisee who plans to expand the brand nationwide, he said.
The company, started in 2013, already has grown substantially, with 36 locations in about 10 states, Harp said.
“It’s always been my plan to get the company to a point where I could hand it off to someone who can grow it even bigger than it’s become,” Harp said. When Kennedy came to him and said he thought he was the guy who could do that, Harp said, he decided it was time to sell.
″(Kennedy) made us an offer that we couldn’t refuse financially,” he said.
Kennedy said he operated three Frios locations, from Mobile to Pensacola. He said he called Harp out of the blue, with the idea of buying out Frios. He said the plan has been in the works since August. He hopes to have Frios production moved to Mobile by February or March. He’s excited to bring the business, and new jobs to Mobile.
Kennedy said his background is in a family-owned business that his grandfather started, and his mother now operates.
There seems to be, Kennedy said, a top brand in most every category. “I want Frios to be the top brand in gourmet pops across the country,” he said.
The brand was built on offering frozen desserts made with fresh and unique flavors. Spurred by his “disdain” for corporate life, Harp ventured into his own business. He started selling the pops from a cart on Broad Street, which led to a store front and the sales of the pops in a number of locations in Gadsden and the surrounding area.
The business outgrew its starter kitchen and moved into a 16,00- square-foot facility in Rainbow City. Harp said the Frios production will move to Mobile, and he plans to use the Rainbow City facility for his next venture: hydroponic farming of micro-greens and sprouts that he plans to take to supermarkets across the Southeast. He said he hopes to be up and running by late February or March; he’s already doing some small scale growing that he plans to expand greatly.
“This was a multi-million dollar deal,” Harp said, “But I’m not ready to retire yet.” He said the entrepreneurial spirit runs in his family, and in his blood. This step, he said, allows him to control his own destiny.
Harp also owns Harp and Clover restaurant on Court Street.
“It’s a good day,” Harp said, but he will miss the pops business.
When he told people about it five years ago, he said, “I got a lot of funny looks.” He said he was grateful for supporters like Downtown Gadsden Inc. Director Kay Moore for allowing him to set up on a corner, and the Alabama Teachers Credit Union for its support when no one else would give the business a loan.
And Harp said the people of Gadsden supported the business, helping to make it a “viral” success through word of mouth.
He said he’s excited about his new venture, and to see Frios grow beyond the Southeast.
“I’m humbled, to know that I started it,” Harp said.
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